Learning from the locals

Learning from the locals

One of the main reasons why people even bother travelling is to get to know more about the local customs, cultures and traditions of the places they go to. The best way to do this is to interact directly with the local people, who better or more informed than them? There are many ways in which you can approach learning from locals, and having a large language barrier doesn’t need to be a problem. Below are some tips about how to get the most out of meeting people in a new country.

Observe and read in advance

Cremation Ceremony

Do some research before you leave as this can help minimise any cultural differences that you should be aware of, such as how different communities approach touching each other, dressing or saying hello. By taking the time to ensure that you can behave respectfully, you will immediately be at an advantage once you reach your destination. Once you get there, observe how people behave and interact and try and learn as much as possible. If you can dress, act and say hello like a local, you will already be a few steps ahead of the game. Travel forums or detailed guidebooks can be a good place to start.

Find a local guide

Having a local guide can be a great way to learn more about a place. Ask around, online or through a travel agency if they know of any guided tours or even museum visits that will allow you to further understand the heritage and culture of your location. Having a guide will give you much deeper insight, and you can ask any burning questions directly. You might also be inclined to take a short course in a traditional activity such as dancing or cooking. This is also a good way to learn more about different aspects of the local culture. Be respectful and aware that things may be done differently to what you are used to. Phrase questions carefully so as to not appear judgemental, and learn as much as you can.

Stay with a local

Lastly, one of the best ways to learn from local people is to stay with them. Many countries have organisations that help facilitate homestays or cultural exchange visits, so check these out before leaving. You could even try couchsurfing, which allows you to stay with residents for free. This will allow you to learn about a different country from the inside and in more depth. If you are willing to muck in, you can always check out WWOOFing or HelpEx, which organise free homestays in exchange for work. By spending time with host families and sharing different aspects of their life, you will truly learn a lot about their home.

Date posted: 20th June, 2015

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